Page:The Zoologist, 4th series, vol 3 (1899).djvu/286

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THE ZOOLOGIST.

time when they sing most beautifully, more so even than when the females arrive. At times they positively seem to curse one another, the Blackcap always being the more excitable of the two. A Wood-Warbler was singing among the oaks. You nearly always find them in oaks or birches, and generally on the side of a hill. I always look on the Wood-Warbler as one of the most beautiful birds we have, both in colour and form.

Coming out into a little lane, which passed through the middle of these woods, I saw a pair of Lesser Whitethroats mating. The male Warblers are always worth watching when the females arrive; they have such curious ways of flirting. The Wood-Warbler seems to select two trees, and flies backwards and forwards between them, singing as he gets to each one. The Chiffchaff wanders about in the air like a big moth, flapping his wings very slowly. The Blackcap makes vain attempts to touch the top of his head with his tail. But most curious of all is the Grasshopper-Warbler; for some reason he runs about on the ground with a leaf in his bill—what the object of it was I could never quite tell—the female running about like a mouse, hardly ever uttering a note, though I have heard it once, very much like the young birds when fully fledged. Whitethroats abound in this lane, some in bright plumage, and others so dull you would hardly know them to be the same bird. They arrive in this state; two birds arrive at the same time, one in beautiful plumage, the other quite dull. Why this is I do not know, never having followed them to their winter quarters. The plumage of all Warblers very soon becomes dull, especially that of Whitethroats; I have shot a Wood-Warbler at the end of June in the most lovely plumage, and, when skinned, found it was covered with fat. The same with Yellow Wagtails, and these could only have lately arrived, for their brilliant yellow lasts but a week or two after they come to this country.

Turning into the wood again, among the oaks, I saw a pair of Greater Spotted Woodpeckers playing about, chasing one another from tree to tree; interesting birds to watch, especially when they have young. I have sometimes heard them rattling on a tree nearly a mile away; this particular pair evidently had a nest close by. Farther on in the woods a Green Woodpecker was laughing away to himself. The Greater Spotted is the